In Your Face: The Culture of Beauty and You
by Shari Graydon is a beauty myth primer for teens,
and as such didn't really tell me anything I didn't already
know, although I think it did me good to be reminded of this
stuff. I've been watching too much What Not To Wear
and am starting to think that it's good and right to want to
be pretty all the time.
Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really
Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You by
David Ropeik and George Gray. This is really what
it claims to be: a practical guide. It's a huge list of
everything you think is scary -- radiation, electromagnetic
waves, pesticide residue, tap water -- with discussions of
how scared you should actually be, and why, and what you
can do to protect yourself. This would be a handy reference
book to keep around the house.
An Intelligent Person's Guide to Judaism by
Shmuel Boteach. (Actually now I'm not sure whether
I got the 1999 edition by "Shmuel" or the 2006 edition by
"Shmuley". I wonder what else changed...) I got this because
I am vaguely interested in Judaism and also because I love
Shmuley's show on TLC. As it turns out, Judaism is pretty
cool but I can't get past the believing in God requirement.
I guess that's a pretty fundamental part of this whole
Abrahamic religion thing but I just can't do it.
Some other thoughts: Shmuley doesn't like Ashkenazi
culture. What's wrong with knishes? What's wrong with
klezmer? Nothing, that's what!
The part refuting the Christian idea of suffering
being a means to better oneself threw me for a loop
because I realized I have bought that concept entirely.
When someone claims that their suffering made them
stronger I nod agreeably; it had never even occurred
to me that it might not be so. I'm still not sure
that it is always false; I think that some suffering
is good for you. Where Shmuley and I may differ is
in the scale of the suffering under consideration;
he is talking about being, say, imprisoned and used
for creepy medical experimentation where I am thinking
more of, say, not having a TV in your bedroom.
The whole section about women was a little creepy. I'm
just not sure where I stand on the whole gender thing
these days. Having read Gender Wars (and
having a working brain) I know
that women are not identical to men; being a feminist I
believe that women are legally, morally and in every
other way equal to men; being a mathematician I know
that the differences between men and women in most
meaningful scales are less significant than the
variation within either group; being a parent I believe
that someone has to put the home and family first
and their career second. Shmuley thinks that the
woman is most biologically suited to that role, but
I don't think that's so. Shmuley also says women
are naturally more spiritual than men, gentler,
more compassionate, smell better -- a lot of nice
things which make me think maybe I am being
patronized. Maybe not, though, perhaps I am over-sensitive
Anyway, I will read some more Shmuley books and see
how they are.
Better House and Planet by Marjorie
Harris is a book about how to keep your house
in an environmentally sensitive manner. It's actually
one of those "1000 Household Tips"-type books that
were popular in the eighties. I took it out because
I wanted some tips on cleaning without using nasty
cleaning products, but this book is more like a big
game of "Bullshit or not?!" A sliced avocado won't brown
if you don't take the stone out: bullshit or not?
Bullshit! I can't remember any more, but this book
had a concentration of about one urban legend per
Very disappointing, and I still don't know
how to clean without using nasty products. Maybe
I will just use vinegar for everything.
The World's Best Street & Yard Games by Glen
Vecchione is a collection of all the cool games
you played (or didn't play, in my case) when you were a kid,
and lots more besides. Games for when you are feeling rowdy
or when you are all dressed up and can't get dirty; games
for day and games for night; games for the sidewalk and
games for the park. It's an excellent collection,
and it made me wish the girls would hurry up and grow up
so we could play.
Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs. Another
good Kathy Reichs, although again her sentence fragments —
and paragraphs consisting entirely of a single sentence
fragment — got on my nerves. And this time her
"my subconscious is trying to tell me something"
shtick that she does at the end of every book she writes
annoyed me as well. (Then Jeffrey Deaver did it in his
book too — do all mystery writers do it and I just
never noticed before? Surely not.)
But what annoyed me most of all was how much they screwed
up this character and the stories when they made the TV
series Bones. It's like they threw out everything
that was good about the books, threw in David Boreanaz and
half-baked the whole thing. Is that show even still on?
Naked by David Sedaris is very
funny and good, although his constant moaning about what
a sad loser he is is a bit of a demotivator when after all,
he is the one who wrote the book and there you are sitting
at home reading it. If he's a sad loser, what does that
make you? I don't really know how he went from being a
sad loser to having his book on my shelf, but there you go.
Incidentally, if you like this you might like the
Rakoff book I read a while ago; they are both gay New
Yorkers named David who do weird things and write about them
When You Lunch With The Emperor by Ludwig Bemelmans.
Anyone who has read to Delphine knows that Ludwig Bemelmans
is the Madeline guy, but apparently he also
wrote books for grown-ups. This is a collection of his
autobiographical essays; witty, cutting but not catty,
poignant, favourable adjective, favourable adjective.
I will read more of his stuff eventually; you should too.
Twelfth Card by Jeffrey Deaver.
This is a Lincoln Rhyme book; if you remember the movie
The Bone Collector, it was an adaptation of an
earlier Lincoln Rhyme book starring Denzel Washington
as Lincoln Rhyme in an unusual spot of race-blind casting.
Unfortunately it caused me some mild confusion at the
beginning of this book, because the Lincoln Rhyme in the
book is not only white but is required by the plot to be
somewhat ignorant of black culture. Once I sorted out
the "he's actually white" thing I was fine.
The book was heavy on information, with lots of clunky sentences
like "Mel Cooper lifted several samples off the tape and ran
them through the gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer, the
workhorse instrument in all forensic labs. It separates
unknown trace into its component parts and then identifies them."
Smooth, but then I suppose you have to get that information
out somehow, and I would rather the author just blurt it
out rather than giving it to a character as some crude
expository dialogue: "Mrs.
Jones, this is a gas chromatograph slash mass spectrometer.
Perhaps you already know that it is the workhorse..."
I supposed the "romance" between Sachs and Rhyme (or as
I think of them, Angelina and Denzel) is developed in
one of the earlier books, but in this book I just
couldn't see the attraction; Rhyme seemed like a
patronizing ass, and Sachs seemed to be annoyed with
him much of the time. As I would be.
Anyway, having said all that, still an enjoyable read
with a damn good mystery, some surprising twists and a
Get Your Tongue Out Of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Goodbye
by Cynthia Heimel. Despite the tacky title and
the even tackier cover, this was a collection of good, funny
essays by an author I hadn't encountered before. I
will see if she has written anything more recent though,
because this book was really dated: she makes references to Miatas
and Ghost, she claims New Yorkers don't eat sushi
and that you shouldn't wear high heels with jeans. It
boggles the mind, really, but I suppose that's what
happens when you write a pop culture book.